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They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

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They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

Preached at Skillman Bible Church

June 5, 2005

Main Sermon Text:

1 John 4:7-5:4

Supporting texts:

1 Cor. 13:13

James 2:15-16

Matthew 22:39

1 John 3:11-24

Central Proposition: Christians must love each other fervently and this is displayed through our actions toward each other in the working out of our faith together and in our service in the church and in each other’s lives.

Sub proposition 1: Christ is the ultimate model for love.

Sub proposition 2: Out of the three character qualities listed in 1 Cor 13:13, Love will be all that remains in the new creation.  We will have no need for faith or hope in heaven. So if we are to live by God’s standards with heaven in mind, we must practice love.

Applicational truths:

1)      We must love each other with our actions (or in deed) and not just give lip service (in word).

2)      We must love each other “in truth” and not simply “in tongue”

3)     Three blessings will come to the believer who practices Christian love:

a.      Assurance - A Christian who practices love grows in his understanding of God’s truth and enjoys a heart filled with confidence before God.

b.      Answered Prayer - love for the brethren proves that you are living in the will of God where God can answer your prayer.

c.       Abiding - when a believer walks in love, he finds it easy to obey God, and therefore he maintains a close communion with God.

4)      We must follow Jesus’ example and lay down our lives for each other.

I just finished a class at Dallas Seminary titled “Eschatology” in which we discussed and examined Biblical texts and theology concerning End Times events.  It fits really well into the series that Pastor Terry has been taking us through in Revelation.  You would think that the majority of this class would be discussing the cataclysmic destruction of the world, the battle of Armageddon and so on… but in fact much of our discussion focused on the three basic tenets of Christianity, the three core values of a Christian: Faith, Hope and Love.

Most of you know the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13.  It’s a famous one which is spoken at many weddings.  The last verse of this chapter states, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  Faith, hope and love. Three core values of the Christian’s life. Faith being that we believe in Jesus, that which is unseen.  Hope in that we trust that He will come back again in His Second Coming, some of which Terry has spoken about in Revelation.  Love, which is the greatest of these three, in which we have been created and in which we have been redeemed. 

Love is the reason why we are here.  It was out of love that God created the World.  It was out of love that He chose to redeem His creation when it fell to sin, instead of wiping it out and starting anew.  God is love.  His very essence radiates this fact.

During the recent class I took we looked at the doctrinal statement of Dallas Seminary.  Under the section on the church the statement reads that believers in the community of the church should love “one another with a pure heart fervently.”

Today we’re going to look at one of the major texts of the Bible which expounds to us this mystery of love and how it applies to us today in this fallen world.  Open your Bibles to 1 John 4 verse 7.  It’s fitting to look at this passage as we begin the work on the Cook building renovation because it deals with Christian love within the community of believers, within the church and with all of mankind. Please follow along as I read:

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

One of the central themes of the Bible is community.  We see this from the very beginning when God said “It is not good for man to be alone.”  He knew that what was good, what was best, was for man to exist in community… so he created a partner for the man, a mate, the woman.  The first community existed.  The first two humans were in communion with each other and with God.

Then the fall came, and sin entered the world. This corrupted God’s original intention for mankind and enmity and strife existed in the first community.  Yet God still desired for mankind to live in community and so through Abraham, He created a nation, a community, Israel.  Sometimes good things happened in this community… we see the first educational system set in place in Deuteronomy 6, a community oriented educational system.  And the nation came together under Joshua and work together to conquer the land.  Yet still sin was present and strife existed.  Yet when the community worked together in brotherly, or phileo, love we see God blessing it and working through it, such as when Nehemiah brought a remnant back to Jerusalem to rebuild it after the Babylonian captivity.

When the Messiah came, He also exhorted His followers to live in community through love when he exclaimed that the second greatest commandment after loving God is to love your neighbor.  We see his disciples, living in community, struggling with this concept as they fought with each other over which of them will be greatest in Heaven.  But eventually, they get it and we see them as the Apostles in Acts in agreement and in community for the sake of Christ and His message of love.

“Dear Friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.”  It’s not a request.  It’s not a philosophical or idealistic statement.  It is a command in scripture from the mouth of our Lord.  Love your brother or sister.  And we are to do so in community.  And what is love?  Well, verse 9 and 10 state it plainly: “He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

God showed His ultimate example of love for us in that He sacrificed His Son on our behalf. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life.”  This is a free gift from God.  Unmerited grace. We have done nothing to deserve this gift.  There is no way to earn this gift.  It is given by God through the spilled blood of Christ. This is what love is.  It must be a willingness to lay down our life for each other and for even the stranger.

This is tough stuff.  I’m not sure I could do this. I would hope that I could lay down my life for my family, but could I for one of you? Could I for the neighbor I don’t know?  This is the conflict that we are in. This is the war of our flesh. This is the selfishness and pride that we must daily sacrifice through the aid of the Holy Spirit which God has freely given to those who accept Him as their Savior.

I stand before you a sinner who struggles with the same questions and issues as you do. If it came down to it, could I lay my life down for my friend?  Could I lay my life down for the cause of Christ?  It is my hope and prayer that if or when that time ever comes, that my fleshly instinct would be swallowed up by the ever present and powerful influence of the Spirit in my life.  Because in so doing, this is the ultimate act of love and is the example of Christ on the cross for us.

John goes on to say in verse 18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Love is not based on fear.  Yet sadly, many Christians base their entire view of God on fear. Yes, there is a place for Godly fear, for God is a great God, to be feared because He is holy and mysterious.  But God is a God of grace too. He is great and awesome, but He is also gracious.  His act of grace is in that He has redeemed that which is not worth redeeming – fallen mankind.

Gary Burge, a professor at Wheaton College, once asked his class to write a term paper describing the justice of God.  One of his students submitted the following:

I feel like God punishes me for sins all of the time. I feel that there is always something I am being punished for. I know that is impossible because there are not enough minutes in the day for God to punish us. I probably should not call it punishment, but that is the way I feel about God’s justice. I know of God’s love and blessings for me and for that I am eternally grateful and thankful. But I live with this fear that one mess-up and I will be punished again.

We must allow God to change our hearts.  John exclaims that “perfect love drives out fear.”  Our idea of God should not be based on fear, but on love.  Whenever our perception of God is shaped by fear and anxiety or worry over losing His affection, then we have not probed the depth of His love.  In verse 8 John states it clearly: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” And again in verse 10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  Anyone who does not love another person does not know God because if we really witnessed God’s love in Christ, we will be changed.  Love is the essential character of God’s being. To fail to express love means that we have not met such powerful divine love ourselves. 

John says that we can fool ourselves and goes as far as calling the Christian a liar who proclaims to love God, yet shows no love for other people. The Pharisees were good examples of this and Jesus continually rebukes them throughout the gospels for their hypocritical love.  In fact, Jesus claimed that they really didn’t love God or people, but that they only loved what people thought of them. It was only about their status, and hence their outward actions of piety were based on selfish gain.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” It is impossible to love God and to not love others. Once a person has experienced the grace of our loving Redeemer, they will overflow with that love to all that they meet.

If we love God, we will be obedient to Him.  In John’s gospel, he expounds on this same truth in chapter 15:  “ If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  When we love each other, we are in obedience to God.

In 1 John 5:4, the author states that love is the victory that overcomes the world.  We can get worn down and tired, fatigued at spreading the gospel message.  Yet, even when we don’t feel God’s affection, when God seems far, and there are those times, should we wait for that feeling of closeness with God before we act on His commands in scripture?  Perhaps our attitude should be one of expectance, that perhaps in the course of my activity, I might experience his love for me anew.  Time and again there have been stories of Christians who have tirelessly served in desperate situations where they exhibited extraordinary love among the loveless, not as a way to make God love them, but as a spiritual exercise, to energize their hearts, to touch love itself.  In this very instance of loving the loveless, they experienced a little of what it must have been like for God to love that which hated him – His creation. 

Perhaps you have experienced this for yourself.  Or maybe God is on the verge of pushing you into a situation where you will experience it. Don’t hesitate.  Follow His lead and you will experience God’s love beyond your imagination as you reach out in community spirit the love that Christ has shown you.

Implicit in all of this is that we love each other, the church, or what I would call the New Covenant community of believers.  In chapter three of this same book, John exclaims that: “This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”   It is hard to sing that song with hatred on the tongue, yet to be identified with Christ and His church, we are commanded to love each other.  How does this play out in our daily lives?

We must love each other in deed, or in action and in truth, not just with our language.  Stop giving lip service and put words into actions.  The opposite of “in deed” is “in word”.  James 2:15-16 states, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled’; and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”  This is loving a brother or sister “in word”.  But to love “in deed” is to provide for them what they need with what we have.

The opposite of loving “in truth” is to love “in tongue”. It means to love insincerely. To love “in truth” means to love a person genuinely, from the heart and not just from the tongue. People are attracted by genuine love, but repelled by the artificial variety. One reason why sinners were attracted to Jesus (Luke 15:1–2) was because they were sure He loved them sincerely.

This is not easy stuff.  As I stated before, the costs are great. To love like this cost Jesus His life. But the wonderful benefits that come to you as by-products of this love more than compensate for any sacrifice you make. To be sure, you do not love others because you want to get something in return, but you love others, “because God first loved you.”

We must love because God is love.  We must love our neighbor, which yes includes your enemy, and we must love each other. Love is the greatest in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 because it is what will remain after all has passed into eternity.  Faith, Hope and Love. Faith is temporary because once we get to heaven, we won’t need faith because faith is necessary for what we cannot see.  Hope is temporary because our hope will be fully realized when we reach heaven. Love is all that will remain so when we love each other in community, in that community is where we experience a little bit of heaven on earth.

So as we begin the work on the Cook building in a few days, and it gets hot and sticky and we get tired and fatigued, lets remember to work with each other in love and in obedience to God. We should always strive to love each fervently and to seek ways to not just build a building, but to build a church that exhibits to our community at large a little glimpse of heaven through the love that we have for each other and for all people.

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